Governor Pritzker signs package of laws to advance equity in higher education

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) – Governor Pritzker on Monday afternoon signed several pieces of legislation that will advance fairness and expand opportunities for higher education institutions across Prairie State.

He signed three things; Senate Bill 1085, Senate Bill 815, and Bill 3359, which will protect all prospective students and their families from predatory college planning ventures, advance equity in public funding of higher education, and ensure that personal support workers can attend classes for free with students with disabilities.

“With the laws I sign today, Illinois will continue to lead the nation in providing students with more equitable access to higher learning opportunities,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This is not just a victory for our students and their families, it is a victory for the future of our entire state. Making the university more affordable and accessible while helping Illinois maintain its designation as a leading source of talent and innovation will boost our economy and create jobs throughout our state.

SB 1085 aims to protect families in the collegial planning process by creating the Consumer Protection Act in educational planning services. The law adds protections to ensure that the families of potential students are not exploited by predatory, for-profit college planning firms.

The legislation specifies the conditions that must be included in a contract for educational planning services and any contract inconsistent with the law will be canceled. Contractual requirements include the specification of certain information, such as contact details of the consumer and the service provider.

It will also increase fairness for all families if a college planning provider speaks in a language other than English then the provider is required to translate all required disclosures and documents. In addition, this bill prohibits college planning providers from charging registration or maintenance fees.

“As the state university access and financial aid agency, we want to make sure that all students and families have access to the university planning services they need and deserve,” said Eric Zarnikow, executive director of the Illinois Student Aid Commission (ISAC). “This consumer protection measure will help ensure that families are not trapped in long-term predatory contracts for educational planning services such as finding college and on-demand assistance. financial aid, and let them know that similar services are available free of charge from a student’s school, library, ISAC, or a variety of principle organizations.

“For over twenty years, I have worked with families seeking help after having already paid or signed contracts with companies that charge extra either for no service at all or for services available free of charge from them. ‘reputable organizations,’ said Jacqueline Monreno, ICCS Executive Director, College Access and Outreach. “As the university becomes more expensive, these organizations have proliferated and prey on the neediest students and first generation students. Finally, the Segura law offers protection and resources to families.

“This measure attracts the bad actors who prey on low-income, first-generation students,” State Senator Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) said. “Families must have the opportunity to break out of deceptive long-term contracts when these services are provided free of charge by the state. “

“The transparency created by this bill will be a breath of fresh air for people in communities that unscrupulous education planning departments have prayed over from generation to generation,” said state representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago). “In pursuit of the American dream, far too many Illinois, especially those who are first generation Americans and low-income communities, have been sold a bill of goods that has hampered them with extraordinary debts for the rest. of their life. Illinois has become a leader in protecting our citizens from these actors and their bad practices. “

SB 1085 comes into effect on January 1, 2022.

This bill aims to establish an equity-based funding model for the allocation of state funds to public universities, by creating the Commission on Equitable Funding of Public Universities. The Commission will assess existing funding methods, while recommending specific data-driven approaches to the General Assembly to fund Illinois public universities more equitably.

The 30-person commission will be co-chaired by four: a member appointed by the Speaker of the House and the Speaker of the Senate, a member of the Chairman of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), and another appointed by the Governor. While the members of the Commission will serve without compensation, the IBHE will provide administrative support. By July 1, 2023, the Commission will publicly publish the findings and recommendations on the IBHE website.

“This legislation will ensure that Illinois funding for public universities is focused on equity and that institutions have the resources they need to close equity gaps, two core strategies of the new strategic plan. ‘IBHE, A Thriving Illinois,’ said Executive Director Ginger Ostro. “We thank the Governor and the sponsors for creating this Commission. Illinois’ economic future and educational equity go hand in hand. Our funding systems must recognize and reinforce this.

“Universities and colleges that serve members of disadvantaged communities need equitable funding to serve their students and undo the damage caused by historical and systemic racism,” said Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “I am happy to see that this legislation has been enacted.

“I am honored to have led the work on SB815, which will help advance a new model of higher education funding in the state of Illinois,” said State Representative Carol Ammons ( D-Urbana). “The ultimate goal is to find ways to better fund our public universities with an equity lens. This is clearly a next step in the development of a fair and adequate education system and I appreciate Governor Pritzker’s signing on this historic legislation.

This bill aims to ensure that all students have access to quality education. HB 3359 allows a student’s Personal Support Worker (PSW) to attend class with the student. The legislation also prevents IBHE from charging PSW tuition or fees to attend class.

PSWs can help in circumstances such as a child or an adult living with a disability. The Illinois Department of Social Services (IDHS) defines a PSW as someone who can assist people with activities of daily living, supervision, or teaching skills that promote safety and well-being.

“Thanks to the governor and sponsors of HB 3359, this legislation allows students with disabilities to have the support they need in the classroom and allows for an educational environment where students and adults can thrive, in a thoughtful, collaborative experience. and truly inclusive, ”said Grace B. Hou, secretary of the Illinois Department of Social Services.

“I am honored to have been able to be the main sponsor of this bipartisan legislation and to see it enacted by the governor,” said State Representative Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich). “When I learned of the situation involving a voter in my riding, I was frankly shocked. The fact that not one, but two public community colleges prevented a student with an intellectual disability from having his support worker with him in class made no sense. Today, we’re making sure this doesn’t happen again in Illinois, and we’re making sure all students have access to the support they may need to be successful in the classroom.

“Sadly, discrimination against people with disabilities still occurs today, which is why this legislation is so important,” said Chief Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “This sad reality is personal to me because this discrimination happened to a voter who was denied the opportunity to study because of his disability, which requires him to have a support worker to help him. Unfortunately, this young man was turned away from two local colleges because they did not allow his chaperone to sit with him in class unless the chaperone also paid the tuition. This is simply not true. Discrimination has absolutely no place in our higher education system. Everyone should have the opportunity to continue their education, regardless of their disability. This new law is a step towards advancing the rights of people with disabilities here in Illinois. I hope that now no other disabled person will suffer in the same way.

HB 3359 is effective immediately.

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